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This study is very very long... I would suggest that you make a special time to read through this very insightful study guide by John MacArthur.  In many ways you will find his writing extremely conservative by today's mainstream Christian church standards---however, you may find areas in which you will believe he is a little less conservative.  I pray that you will glean a great deal from these messages. ---again, this is very long. ---ps

God's High Calling for Women

God's High Calling for Women--Part 1
John MacArthur
All Rights Reserved

Reprinted here with written permission from  Grace to You;  Http://
(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)

 1 Timothy 2:9       Tape GC 54-14


A.  The Situation Today

The debate over the role of women in the church has reached massive proportions.   The feminist movement has penetrated almost every area of our society, and has recently made inroads into the church.  I am amazed at how many evangelical churches, colleges, and seminaries are abandoning biblical truths they have held for all their existence.  Books have been written affirming new truth regarding the role of women in the church.  Scripture teaching the traditional roles of men and women are being reinterpreted.  Some say they should be ignored because they merely reflect Paul's anti-female bias.  Others are saying those passages were added by later editors and do not reflect the intent of the original authors.  The church, the bastion of the truth of God, is falling fast to the march of the feminist army. 

The effort to overthrow the design of God for men and women is not ultimately a human effort.  It is the effort of the archenemy of God, Satan, who uses sinful human agents to attain his goals.  That's why the controversy over the role of women in the church is so tragic: the church is being deceived by the lies of Satan and actually becoming a part of his attack on the plan of God.  God has specific roles for men and women in society, the family, and the church that are very clear in Scripture, and we need to reaffirm them. 

In approaching this subject, I could take a lot of time demonstrating how far-reaching the feminist movement is.  I could give you many quotes, and we could look at all kinds of incidents.  We could discuss at length the schools, seminaries, and books that illustrate how pervasive the feminist movement's influence on the church has been.   However we're all aware of that, so it seems to me most needful to simply look at the Word of God.  If we understand what the Bible says, we will be able to deal with any error we might face.  There is no passage more direct, helpful, and comprehensive in addressing the role of women in the church than 1 Timothy 2:9-15. 

B.  The Situation at Ephesus

1.  The occasion of Paul's writing

First Timothy is a letter from the apostle Paul to his son in the faith, his dear friend and co-laborer, Timothy.  They met several years before the writing of this epistle during Paul's second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-5).  When this letter was written Paul had concluded his three missionary journeys, and had just been released from his first imprisonment in Rome.  After leaving prison, he met Timothy in Ephesus.   Timothy was pastor of the church there.  Apparently word had reached Paul that things in Ephesus were not as they should be.  The church at Ephesus was close to his heart.  He had spent three years of his ministry there, and had poured his soul into that church.  In Acts 20 Paul said to the Ephesian elders that he had not failed to declare the entire word of God to the church, but had warned them night and day for three years that error would come from the outside and evil would rise from the inside (vv.   27-31).  Unfortunately his worst fears had come to pass: the church at Ephesus had fallen into doctrinal error and ungodly patterns of living.  Most significantly of all, the leadership had been corrupted.  They needed to be replaced with godly leaders. 

Paul met Timothy in Ephesus and personally dealt with two of the corrupt leaders, Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim.  1:20).  Then Paul had to leave to go West for further ministry, but he left Timothy behind at Ephesus to straighten out the rest of the problems in the church.  Paul had been gone only a few weeks when he wrote this letter to Timothy to encourage him and give him directions for his ministry.  First Timothy 3:14-15 gives us the overall intent of the letter: "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. " First Timothy was written to set the church in order. 

2.  The purposes of Paul's writing

a) The topic of women

One of the problem areas in the church at Ephesus was the role of women.  Since the leaders of the church had fallen into doctrinal and moral error, it's not surprising that would have a negative impact on the women in the church as well as the men.   First Timothy 5:6 tells us that some women had abandoned their purity, and were living only for pleasure.  Some younger widows had made promises to Christ to remain single, but they were in danger of violating them because of lusts, thus bringing condemnation upon themselves (vv.  11-12).  Some had become idle, wandering around from house to house.  They were talebearers and busybodies (v.  13).   Some had already turned aside to follow Satan (v.  15).  In 2 Timothy 3:6 Paul refers to silly women laden with lusts who are easy prey for false teachers. 

b) The topic of worship

First Timothy 2 focuses in on another problem involving women.  Under the pretense of coming to worship God, they were flaunting themselves and desecrating the worship service.  Their dress and demeanor betrayed an evil intent rather than a heart of worship. 

Worship is central to the church, so it is not surprising that Paul discussed it early in his letter.  In fact, it was the second topic he dealt with in chapter 2, which is where he began discussing problems in the church.  The worship services at Ephesus were being polluted by women who saw in them an opportunity to flaunt their wealth and beauty.  Their sexual allure was drawing the men's focus away from the worship service.  From his discussion of the problems women were causing in the worship services, Paul branches out into a discussion of the biblical role of women. 



"In like manner, also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel . . .   not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array"

"In like manner" refers back to verse 8.  It introduces a new subject, but one related to the previous subject.  Paul now moves to a new topic within the overall subject of how men and women should conduct themselves in the worship service.   "In like manner" often serves as a transition between different topics within a broader discussion.  It is used in 1 Timothy 3:8 to make a transition between the topic of elders to the topic of deacons, and in verse 11 between deacons and deaconesses--all within the general subject of church leaders.  Paul now moves from discussing the attitude of men in the worship service (v.  8) to that of women (vv.   9-15). 

A.  The General Pattern

1.  The meaning of "will"

The Greek word translated "will" in verse 8 (boulomai) refers to intent, purpose, determination, or command, in contrast to thelo, which indicates a wish.  It could be translated "I command. " It carries apostolic intent and divine authority.  Paul is commanding men to pray and women to adorn themselves in a proper manner. 

2.  The meaning of "adorn"

The Greek word kosme[ma]o means "to arrange" or "to put in order. " Paul is saying women should prepare themselves for worship.  The Greek word translated "modest" (kosmios), the adjectival form of kosme[ma]o, means "well-ordered," or "well- arranged. "

3.  The meaning of "apparel"

The Greek word translated "apparel" in the King James Version does not refer only to clothing, but can mean "demeanor" or "attitude. " It encompasses a woman's total preparation for worship, involving both the attitude of the heart and proper adornment on the outside.  Her clothing should reflect a heart focused on God. 

B.  The Specific Problems

Paul not only gives a general exhortation about women's appearance, but also deals with some specific issues that were problems in Ephesus. 

1.  Imitating their culture

Several ancient writers have described what women were dressed like in the Roman culture of Paul's day, which no doubt influenced the church at Ephesus:

a) Juvenal

The writings of this first-century Roman satirical poet picture everyday life in the Roman Empire.  In his sixth satire he described women who were preoccupied with their appearance: "There is nothing that a woman will not permit herself to do, nothing that she deems shameful, and when she encircles her neck with green emeralds and fastens huge pearls to her elongated ears, so important is the business of beautification; so numerous are the tiers and stories piled one another on her head! In the meantime she pays no attention to her husband!"

b) Philo

Philo was a Jewish Hellenistic philosopher of the first century.  In his work The Sacrifices of Cain and Abel, he described a prostitute bedecked with a multitude of gold chains and bracelets as having her hair dressed in elaborate braids, her eyes marked with pencil lines, her eyebrows smothered in paint, and her expensive clothes embroidered lavishly with flowers (19-21). 

c) Pliny the Elder

This first-century Roman historian told of Lollia Paulina, one-time wife of the Roman Emperor Caligula, who had a dress worth more than one million dollars by today's standards.  It was covered from head to food with emeralds and pearls, and she carried with her the receipts proving its value (Natural History ix, 58). 

In contrast to Roman society, the mystery religions of Greece had very stringent rules about the appearance of women.  One inscription that has been discovered illustrates their concern: "A consecrated woman shall not have gold ornaments, nor rouge, nor face whitening, nor a head-band, nor braided hair, nor shoes, except those made of felt or of the skins of sacrificed animals" (cited in William Barclay's The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, rev.  ed.  [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], pp.   67-68). 

Both Paul and Timothy were concerned that the Ephesian church be a godly testimony to society.  For the women of the church to imitate the gaudy clothing styles of pagan women, to call attention to themselves, or to dress to lure men into illicit sexual relationships was to blaspheme the intent of the worship service. 

2.  Flaunting their wealth

In the first-century, poverty was widespread.  A wealthy person could dress in a style that was impossible for a poor person to match, in contrast to today, where good clothing is relatively affordable for a large segment of Western society.  A costly dress worn by a wealthy woman could cost up to 7,000 denarii (one denarius was a day's wage for the average laborer).  When a wealthy woman entered the worship service wearing an expensive dress, she caused a sensation that would disrupt the entire service. 

In addition to expensive dresses, rich women would also display their wealth through elaborate hairdos with expensive jewelry woven into them.  (That's what "braided hair" [v.  9] was to Paul. ) They would also wear gold rings and earrings, and hang gold on their sandals and dresses. 

It should be noted that the Bible does not forbid women to wear simple braids or to own gold, pearls, and fine clothes.  Both the bride of Solomon (Song of Sol.  1:10) and the woman described in Proverbs 31:22 owned expensive apparel.  However the Bible does forbid wearing those things for wrong motives. 

Seductresses in the Church

After a sermon a while ago I walked out the door of the sanctuary, and was approached by a woman who was overly dressed and not appropriately attired for church.  She handed me an expensive piece of jewelry, a gold chain, and a note soliciting me.   That was overt, but there are much more subtle solicitations that go on all the time in the church.  Anyone who doesn't realize that has their head in the sand--just look how many pastors fall prey to sexual sin, and how many churches have to deal with immorality.  That is one of the reasons for Paul's strong words in 1 Timothy 2:9-10. 

Bringing Down the Curtain on the Fashion Show in the Church

John Chrysostom, the fourth-century church father, wrote this in his homily on 1 Timothy 2:8-10 concerning the importance of women dressing modestly for the worship service: "What is this 'modest apparel'? Such attire as covers them completely, and decently, and not with superfluous ornaments for the one is becoming, the other is not.   What? Dost thou approach God to pray with broidered hair and ornaments of gold? Art thou come to a dance? to a marriage? to a gay procession? There such . . .  costly garments, had been seasonable; here not one of them is wanted.  Thou art come to pray, to supplicate for pardon of thy sins, to plead for thine offenses, beseeching the Lord, and hoping to render Him propitious to thee. . . . Away with such hypocrisy!

The church is to be a place where worship happens, not where people put on a show.   It bothers me when I see people who claim to be Christians display a consuming preoccupation with their appearance.  Whenever self- centered women take advantage of the worship service to call attention to themselves, it will bring great tragedy to the church. 

C.  The Proper Motives

1.  Of married women

A Christian wife should seek to attract attention to her godly character, not her clothing.  She should show by her dress and demeanor her love and devotion to her own husband.  She should demonstrate a humble heart committed to worshiping God. 

2.  Of single women

Single women need to realize that the worship service isn't the place to try to attract men.  They too should understand it is more important that someone be attracted to their godly character rather than their outward appearance. 

How can both married and single women know if they are dressed properly for the worship service? By examining their motives.  Ask yourself, Why am I dressed the way I am? What is my goal? Am I trying to draw attention to God or to myself? Will what I'm wearing stand out or will it be considered appropriate for the occasion?

First Peter 3:3-4 is a parallel passage to 1 Timothy 2:9-10.  Peter writes, "Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel, but let it be the hidden man of the heart in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. " Like Paul, Peter emphasizes that a woman is not to be preoccupied with what she wears, but who she is. 


"With godly fear and sobriety"

A.  Godly Fear

The Greek word translated "godly fear" (aid[ma]os) refers to modesty mixed with humility.  It connotes a sense of shame--not shame in being a woman, but in any way inciting lust or distracting others from a proper worship of God.  A woman with a proper sense of shame will dress in such a way as not to be a source of temptation.   Aid[ma]os implies morally rejecting anything dishonorable to God.  This is the woman who would be so grieved over the possibility of offending God that she would never do anything that could cause anyone to stumble. 

B.  Self-Control

"Sobriety" (Gk. , s[ma]ophrosun[ma]e ) is better translated "self- control. " It has a sexual connotation in extrabiblical literature, where it speaks of totally controlling one's passions and desires.  In The Republic Plato said it is one of the four cardinal virtues. 

1.  The danger of failing to exercise self-control

a) To the leaders

In 1 Timothy 3 Paul says that both elders and deacons in the church must be "the husband of one wife" (vv.  2, 12).  That phrase can be literally translated as "a one-woman man. " A man in a leadership role in the church must be totally devoted to his wife.  I believe one of the major problems at Ephesus was that the leaders were not faithful to their wives.  Satan attacked the church by bringing alluring women into the church to seduce the leadership.  He does the same thing today. 

b) To the congregations

(1) At Ephesus

In 1 Timothy 5:14 Paul stressed the importance of younger widows remarrying.  He knew that a large number of single women with strong desire for marriage was a potential danger to the purity of the church.  And that's true in our day too. 

(2) At Crete

In Titus 2:4-5 Paul instructs Titus that older women are to teach young women "to be sober minded, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the Word of God be not blasphemed. " Instead of doing good, some women were causing problems in the congregation. 

(3) At Corinth

In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul rebukes the Corinthians for tolerating a situation involving sexual sin.  In fact, it was a form of sexual sin that was repulsive even to pagans: a man was having an affair with his father's wife (his stepmother).  That was a form of incest.  What was worse, instead of mourning over that sin, the Corinthians oddly enough were boasting about it (v.  2)! According to 1 Corinthians 6:13 they attempted to justify sexual sin by quoting what was perhaps a common Greek proverb: "Foods for the body and the body for foods. " That is to say sex, like eating, is merely a biological function, so why get upset about it? But Paul warned the Corinthians to flee from sexual sin (v.  18).  There is little doubt in my mind that the problem concerning women with improper motives plagued the church at Corinth as well as the churches in Ephesus and Crete. 

2.  The judgment for failing to exercise self-control

In Isaiah 3:16-26 God pronounces judgment on women who dressed to draw attention to themselves: "The Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet; therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will uncover their secret parts.  In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling anklets, and their headbands, and their crescents like the moon, the pendants, and the bracelets, and the veils, the headdresses, and the armlets, and the sashes, and the perfume boxes, and the amulets, the rings, and nose rings, the festival robes, and the mantles, and the cloaks, and the handbags, the hand mirrors, and the linen wrappers, and the turbans, and the veils.   And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet fragrance there shall be rottenness; and instead of a girdle, a rope; and instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a robe, a girding of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.  Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.  And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground. " To wear jewelry or expensive clothes is not evil, but to wear them for evil purposes is.  Clothing that reflects impure motives has no place in the church. 

Focusing on the Facts

1.  Who is behind the attack on the God-designed roles for men and women (see p. 1)?

2.  Describe the circumstances that prompted Paul to write 1 Timothy (see pp. 1-2). 

3.  What was Paul's main purpose in writing 1 Timothy (3:14-15, see p. 2)?

4.  What were some of the problems involving the women in the Ephesian church (see p. 2)?

5.  What is the significance of the phrase "in like manner" in verse 9 (see p. 3)?

6.  Describe the cultural setting in which the Ephesian church found itself regarding women's clothing (see p. 4). 

7.  True or False: According to the Bible, it is always wrong for women to wear expensive jewelry and fancy clothes (see p. 5). 

8.  How can a woman know if she is properly dressed to attend the worship service (see p. 6)?

9.  A woman is not to be preoccupied with _____ _____ _____, but _____ _____ _____ (see p. 6). 

10.  What should a woman's attitude be toward distracting someone from worshiping God (see p. 6)?

11.  Why might Paul have included "husband of one wife" as one of the qualifications for church leaders (see p. 7)?

12.  How did the Corinthians defend their toleration of sexual sin (cf.  1 Cor.  6:13) (see p. 8)?

13.  What is Paul's counsel on how to avoid sexual sin (cf.  1 Cor.   6:18) (see p. 8)?

Pondering the Principles

1.  First Timothy 2:9 stresses the importance of preparing for the worship service.  When you go to church, the issue is not just how well prepared the preacher or choir is, but how well you are prepared to worship God.  As you prepare yourself for the worship service, ask yourself these questions: Am I sincere? Is my attention focused on God? Am I coming to worship God knowing His acceptance of me is based solely on what Christ has done for me? Am I coming with a pure heart, having dealt with any sin in my life? Am I coming to be a spectator, or a participant?

2.  While First Timothy 2:9 teaches the importance of a woman's attitude and dress in preventing sexual sin, men also have a responsibility.  In 2 Timothy 2:22 Paul instructs Timothy (and us) to flee from lust.  Men, when you see a provocatively dressed woman (in or out of the worship service), what's your reaction? Do you stare, or can you say with Job "I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?" (Job 31:1, NKJV) Are you obeying Paul's command to flee from sexual sin, or are you courting it by reading books, looking at magazines, or watching TV programs and movies you know are wrong? Memorize Job 31:1, 1 Corinthians 6:18, and 2 Timothy 2:22: then put their teaching into practice by making yourself accountable to a spiritually mature brother in Christ for your thought life, reading, and viewing habits.


God's High Calling for Women

God's High Calling for Women--Part 2
John MacArthur
All Rights Reserved

(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)

 1 Timothy 2:10-11       Tape GC 54-15



One of the problems facing Timothy at Ephesus was the women in the church.  Some were usurping the role of men, desiring to be the official teachers of the church.   Others were desecrating the worship service by coming with wrong attitudes and dressing improperly.  Their behavior contradicted their profession to know and worship God.  In First Timothy 2:9-15 Paul gives instruction on the role of women in the church--a topic relevant to today as well. 






"But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. "

A.  The Importance of a Woman's Testimony

Paul is concerned that a woman's testimony be consistent.  The Greek word translated "professing" (epangell[ma]o) means "to make a public announcement. " Any woman who has made a public announcement about her commitment to the Lord should conduct herself in a manner consistent with such a profession. 

"Godliness" (Gk. , theosebeia) has the basic meaning of reverence to God.   When a person claims to be a Christian, he is claiming to worship and serve God.   Any woman who claims to serve and worship God should conduct herself in a godly way.  To do otherwise would bring reproach on the name of Christ. 

B.  The Desecration of a Woman's Testimony

Verse 10 points out a major problem with the contemporary women's liberation movement in the church.  A woman who wants to serve and honor God cannot show disregard for what He says about the role of women in His Word. 

C.  The Substance of a Woman's Testimony

The testimony of a woman professing godliness is a life of good works, for righteous deeds demonstrate the genuineness of her faith.  The same is true for anyone. 

IV.  THE ROLE OF WOMEN (vv.  11-12)

"Let the women learn in silence with all subjection.  But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. "

The Greek word translated "learn" (manthan[ma]o) is in the imperative voice, indicating it is a command.  Paul commands that women are to be taught.  Since this section of 1 Timothy is discussing how the church is to conduct itself (cf.   3:15), the learning Paul speaks of was to take place when the church met.  We see from Acts 2:42 that learning was a high priority when the early church gathered together.  Paul commands that women are to be a part of the learning process; they are not to be excluded. 

Women in First-Century Judaism

One of the problems in the Ephesian church was that some of the Jewish believers were still holding on to their Judaism.  They were preoccupied with genealogies (1 Tim.   1:4), and some desired to be recognized as teachers of the law (1 Tim.  1:7).   Part of contemporary Jewish tradition of that day was a low view of women, who were not usually given opportunities to learn.  They were not forbidden to come to the synagogue, but were not encouraged to come either.  Most rabbis refused to greet women in public, and felt that teaching them would be a waste of their time.  While women were not completely forbidden from learning, they were certainly not encouraged to do so.  They were mostly ignored. 

The contemporary Jewish view of teaching women had no doubt led to a certain amount of suppression of women in the church at Ephesus.  In reaction to that extreme position, some of the women determined to rise to the leadership level.  First Timothy 2:12 shows us they were teaching and exercising authority over men, and Paul had to tell them to stop.  But before dealt with the problem of women usurping the role of men, he first settled the question of whether women have a right to learn.  His brief statement "let the women learn" shows us there's an equality of the sexes in spiritual life and blessing. 

A.  In the Old Testament

In spite of Jewish tradition, the Old Testament did not teach that women are inferior in spiritual matters.  The Old Testament teaches that women are spiritually equal to men, but have a separate role. 

1.  Their spiritual equality

a) They had the same responsibilities as men

(1) To obey the law

In Exodus 20 the Ten Commandments are given to both men and women.  From the very beginning, God laid down the principle that both men and women are responsible for obeying His laws. 

(2) To teach the law

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells us that both men and women are responsible to teach their children to obey God's law, and to love Him with all their heart.  Proverbs 6:20 says, "My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother. " The assumption here is that both sexes are responsible to teach the law of God to their children, which means they must know the law of God. 

(3) To participate in the festivals

We read in Exodus 12 that both men and women were involved in the Passover, one of the greatest celebrations of the Jewish calendar. 

b) They had the same protection as men

Penalties given for crimes against women are the same as those for crimes against men (cf.  Ex.  21:28-32).  God values equally the life of a man and the life of a woman. 

c) They took the same vows as men

The greatest vow a person could take was the Nazarite vow.  It was a vow of separation from the world, and devotion to God.  Women as well as men could take the Nazarite vow (Num.  6:2).  The highest level of spiritual commitment was not restricted to men. 

d) They had the same access to God as men

God dealt directly with women in the Old Testament; He didn't go through men every time He wanted to communicate with them.  For example, the angel of the Lord (a pre- incarnate manifestation of Christ) appeared to Hagar (Gen.  16:8-13), and the mother of Samson (Judg.  13:2-5). 

e) They had the same privileges as men

Women as well as men served God in special ways.  Nehemiah 7:67 tells of a choir made up of 245 singing men and women.  They led the people to praise God through music.  According to Exodus 38:8 women served at the door of the Tabernacle, possibly to instruct women who were coming to worship or to clean the Tabernacle grounds.   From such passages as Deuteronomy 12:10-12, 1 Samuel 1, and 2 Samuel 6 we learn women shared in the great national celebrations of Israel. 

Women had the same responsibility to obey the law and teach it to their children as men did.  They participated in the religious life of Israel and served God.  The Old Testament--far from giving women a secondary status--grants them spiritual equality with men. 

2.  Their separate role

Although women shared spiritual equality with men in the Old Testament, that does not mean they had the same role as men.  Nonetheless that does not in any way diminish their spirituality. 

a) They did not serve as leaders

There were no women rulers in the history of either Israel or Judah.  (Deborah, who we read about in Judges 4-5, was a judge.  She acted primarily in the role of an arbiter, not as an ongoing leader, which explains why she called on Barak when needing military leadership against the Canaanites.  Queen Athaliah, who we read about in 2 Kings 11, was a usurper and not a legitimate ruler. ) There is no mention of women priests in the Old Testament.  As far as we know, no woman wrote any portion of the Old Testament. 

b) They had no ongoing prophetic ministry

There is no woman in the Old Testament who had an ongoing prophetic ministry such as that of Elisha or Elijah.  There are five women in the Old Testament who are referred to as prophetesses. 

(1) Miriam

Miriam was the sister of Moses, and is called a prophetess in Exodus 15:20.  She is called a prophetess perhaps because she gave a very brief revelation in verse 21.   We know of no other occasion when she ever acted in the prophetic office. 

(2) Deborah

Deborah is described as a prophetess in Judges 4:4 because she was used by God to give a direct revelation to Barak.  We know of no other occasion when she engaged in any kind of ongoing prophetic work. 

(3) Huldah

Huldah gave revelation from God to Hilkiah the priest and other men about the coming judgment on Jerusalem and Judah (2 Kings 22:14-22; 2 Chron.  34:22-28).  There is no other recorded instance of her speaking as a prophetess. 

(4) Noadiah

Mentioned in Nehemiah 6:14, Noadiah was a false prophetess who opposed the work of Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. 

(5) The wife of Isaiah

Isaiah's wife is called a prophetess in Isaiah 8:3 because she gave birth to a child whose name had prophetic meaning.  There is no record of her ever speaking a prophecy.  This passage indicates that the term "prophetess" could be used in a general way. 

The Old Testament differentiates the role of women from that of men.  That doesn't indicate women are in any way inferior to men; it's just that God has different roles for each

B.  In the New Testament

1.  Their spiritual equality

This is clearly set forth in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. " In the context of Galatians 3, the oneness spoken of here is the oneness of salvation.  That is clear from verses 13-27.  Paul's point is that all people, Gentiles as well as Jews, slaves as well as free men, and women as well as men, have equal access to the salvation that is in Christ.  The passage has nothing to do with the role of women in the church, nor does it teach that all differences are eliminated among Christians.  Certainly a Jewish person did not cease to be Jewish when he became a Christian, and slaves did not automatically become free men.  Some distinctions are retained. 

a) They had the same responsibilities as men

All the commands, promises, and blessings of the New Testament are given equally to men and women.  We all have the same spiritual resources, and the same spiritual responsibilities. 

b) They had the same access to Jesus as men

The first person Jesus revealed He was the Messiah to was a woman (John 4).  Jesus healed women (Matt.  8:14-15), showing them just as much compassion as He did men.   He taught them (Luke 10:38-42), and allowed them to minister to Him personally (Luke 8:3).  At His cross, after all the men had fled, the women remained (Matt.   27:55-56).  The first person to see the resurrected Christ was a woman (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18). 

2.  Their separate role

a) They did not serve as leaders

There is no record in the New Testament of a woman apostle, pastor, teacher, evangelist, or elder.  Nowhere in the New Testament is any sermon or teaching given by a woman. 

b) They did not have an ongoing prophetic role

Some would argue that the daughters of Philip are said to have prophesied (Acts 21:9).   However they are not referred to as prophets, nor is there any indication of how often they spoke.  It may be that they spoke on only one occasion, as Deborah and Miriam apparently did in the Old Testament.  The New Testament records other occasions when women spoke the Word of God.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, did so in her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).  1 Corinthians 11:5 says that women who prophesy are to have their heads covered.  Acts 2:17 speaks of women prophesying.  The Greek word translated "prophesy" simply means "to speak forth" or "to proclaim. " There are times and places when women speak the Word of God, but that is distinctly different from being identified as a pastor, teacher, elder, evangelist, or apostle. 


Women have a very important place in the plan of God, and are on an equal level with men in terms of spiritual life.  However they are not to function in the same role as men.  Because women are spiritually equal Paul insisted that they be given the same opportunities to learn as men.  How can women teach spiritual truth to their children (like Timothy's mother and grandmother did), lead people to Christ, or obey God if they are not given the opportunity to learn? Paul wanted it clearly understood that the differences in roles between men and women do not in any way imply the spiritual inferiority of women.  That's why he said "Let the women learn" (v.   11). 

Focusing on the Facts

1.  What were some of the problems relating to women in the Ephesian church (see p. 1)?

2.  Why is important for a woman's testimony to match her profession of faith (see p. 1)?

3.  The testimony of a woman professing godliness is a life of __________ __________ (see p. 2). 

4.  According to Acts 2:42 __________ was a high priority when the early church gathered together (see p. 2). 

5.  In your own words, summarize the place of women in first-century Judaism (see p. 2). 

6.  True or False: The contemporary Jewish view of women influenced the way women were being treated in the Ephesian church (see p. 2). 

7.  True or False: The Old Testament, in agreement with Jewish tradition, teaches that women are inferior spiritually (see p. 3). 

8.  Name some of the spiritual responsibilities women shared with men in the Old Testament (see p. 3). 

9.  How did the role of women in the Old Testament differ from that of men (see pp.  4-5)?

10.  Does Galatians 3:28 teach that all differences between men and women have been eliminated? Explain (see p. 5). 

11.  Did Jesus treat women as inferior to men? Support your answer from Scripture (see pp.  5-6). 

12.  Why is it important for women to learn spiritual truth (see p. 6)?

Pondering the Principles

1.  The church at Ephesus had been influenced by the prevailing views of society regarding women.  The same could be said about the church today.  In this as in other areas, the church has been influenced by the world instead of being an influence on the world.  Are your views of current issues being shaped by the prevailing opinions of society, or by God's Word? Perhaps you need to rethink your position on such issues as women's roles, abortion, homosexuality, the creation- evolution controversy, the Christian's responsibility to the government, lawsuits, and divorce and remarriage.   Spend some time in prayer and ask God to give you the courage to take a stand on the issues based on His Word--no matter what society propagates.  Then pray that the church as a whole will also stand firm for God's truth. 

2.  Jesus ministered to all types of people, even those whom His culture considered inferior.  He ministered to women, the poor, lepers, and tax collectors.   Are you selective in whom you allow yourself to get involved with? Do you reach out to the difficult people and strangers at your church and Bible study group, or do you play it safe and stick just with your friends? The next time you see a person in need and are tempted to turn away from him because he isn't part of the "in crowd," remember the example of Jesus, and the words of James in James 2:1-9.

God's High Calling for Women

God's High Calling for Women--Part 3
John MacArthur
All Rights Reserved

(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)

 1 Timothy 2:11       Tape GC 54-16



Catharine Beecher was the oldest child of a famous family in American history.   One of her younger sisters was novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin.  She grew up having a great love for children, finding joy in the duties of raising and caring for them.  Her mother was very skilled in domestic handicraft, and spent a great amount of time teaching Catharine how to take care of the home. 

When Catharine was sixteen her mother died and an aunt moved into the Beecher home to fill her place.  The aunt was noted for her neatness and ability to manage the home in an orderly and economical way.  Catharine's father eventually remarried, and her step-mother was an expert in domestic administration.  Catharine, under the tutelage of those exemplary women, had learned a great deal about domestic life.  She decided that she wanted to train women for their domestic responsibilities, so at the age of twenty-three she founded The Hartford Female Seminary.  Its purpose was to train women to be lovers of their husbands and children, and keepers of the home.  She and her sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, founded another seminary a few years later in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

In 1869 they wrote a book entitled The American Woman's Home (N. Y. : J.  B.   Ford and Co. ).  In it they said, "Woman's profession embraces the care and nursing of the body in the critical periods of infancy and sickness, the training of the human mind in the most impressionable period of childhood. . . and most of the government and economies of the family state.  These duties of woman are as sacred and important as any ordained to man; and yet no such advantages for preparation have been accorded her, nor is there any qualified body to certify the public that a woman is duly prepared to give proper instruction in her profession" (p.  14).  It was their desire in founding the two schools to train women "not only to perform in the most approved manner all the manual employments of domestic life, but to honor and enjoy these duties" (pp.  14-15). 

That quote shows how far we've come since that time.  If anyone were to start a female seminary to train women today in domestic responsibility, they would become the instant laughing stock of the whole United States, if not most of the world.   Training women to love their husbands, love their children, and keep the home would put a person in direct opposition to much of what's been happening in our society. 


In 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Paul gives us a comprehensive treatment of the role of women in the church. 




IV.  THE ROLE OF WOMEN (vv.  11-12)

"Let the women learn in silence with all subjection.  But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. "

A.  In the Old Testament (see pp.  xx-xx)

B.  In the New Testament (see pp.  xx-xx)


C.  In the Church

The Role of Women in Greek Society

The church at Ephesus existed in a city dominated by Greek culture and religion.   According to William Barclay, "The place of women in Greek religion was low.   The Temple of Aphrodite in Corinth had a thousand priestesses who were sacred prostitutes and every evening plied their trade on the city streets.  The Temple of Diana in Ephesus had its hundreds of priestesses called the Melissae, which means the bees, whose function was the same.  The respectable Greek woman led a very confined life.  She lived in her own quarters into which no one but her husband came.   She did not even appear at meals.  She never at any time appeared on the street alone; she never went to any public assembly.  The fact is that if in a Greek town Christian women had taken an active and a speaking part in its work, the Church would inevitably have gained the reputation of being the resort of loose women" (The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, rev.  ed.  [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], p.  67). 

Paul makes two points in verse 11 about women in the church: they are to learn in silence and in submission.  The Greek word translated "silence" (h[ma]esuchia) means exactly that: silence.  We'll have to determine its meaning from the context.  The Greek word translated "subjection" is from hupotass[ma]o, which means "to line up under. " Women are not to be rebels; they're to get in line in their proper place. 

The woman's silence here has been misinterpreted in two ways.  Those who believe women should be permitted to preach in the church interpret "silence" as a reference to a meek and quiet spirit.  They claim that all this passage is saying is that women preachers or teachers are to have meek and quiet demeanors.  Others go to the opposite extreme and insist that no woman should ever talk in church under any circumstances--not even to the person they're sitting next to.  However Paul makes clear in verse 12 what he means by "silence": women are to be silent in the sense of not teaching or exercising over men in the church. 

1.  They are to learn in silence (1 Cor.  14)

1 Corinthians 14:34 echoes the thought of 1 Timothy 2:11.  Paul writes, "Let your women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted unto them to speak, but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. "

a) The reason for women's silence

The reason women are not to preach in the church has nothing to do with their psychological makeup or intellectual capabilities.  The last phrase in 1 Corinthians 14:34 tells us women are not to teach in the church because God's law forbids it (cf.   Gen.  3:16). 

b) The meaning of women's silence

The context of 1 Corinthians 14 indicates that the silence Paul commanded was not intended to preclude women from speaking at all, but to keep them from speaking in tongues and prophesying in the church. 

The Spectacle of the Oracle

Across the Gulf of Corinth was the city of Delphi.  At the head of the religious structure in Delphi was a woman known as the Pythia, or the oracle of Delphi.  To qualify for the office a woman had to be a young virgin but later married women over fifty were preferred, but they had to dress like maidens.  Basically this priestess was a medium in contact with demon spirits.  Those who desired to know what the future held for them would consult her. 

A person desiring to consult the oracle would first have to sacrifice an animal while a few attendant priestesses evaluated the omens.  If they were favorable, the man (no women were allowed to consult the oracle) was permitted to enter the inner shrine.   After entering he would write his request on a tablet (archaeologists have excavated the shrine area and found some of those tablets still intact), which would then probably have been read to the Pythia.  She sat on a tripod, allegedly over a chasm from which a mystic vapor from the ground arose.  Before taking her seat, she had to drink water from the prophetic stream called Kassotis, and eat sacred laurel leaves.   In response to the question on the tablet, she would utter incoherent sounds that would be interpreted (often in perfect hexameter verse) by a male prophet who stood nearby.  The interpretation, which was often obscure and variable, left the inquirer more mystified than when he came. 

All that had a negative impact on the church at Corinth.  Some people came into the Corinthian assembly and uttered similar ecstatic speech, supposedly in the power of the Holy Spirit.  That led to chaos in the Corinthian church, the true gifts of speaking in tongues and prophesying being hopelessly confused with Satanic counterfeits. 

(1) The corruption

At Corinth, as in Ephesus, were women who were flaunting their sexuality.  Perhaps being influenced by the Delphic religion (which was headed by a woman) they sought prominent positions in the Corinthian church by abusing the gifts of speaking in tongues and prophesying. 

(2) The correction

In response to that problem Paul wrote, "How is it, then, brethren? When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.  Let all things be done unto edifying" (1 Cor.  14:26).  He went on to tell them that no more than two or three were to speak in tongues, and never without an interpreter present.  Only two or three prophets were to speak, and others were to evaluate them to see if they spoke the truth (vv.  27- 29).  Paul's point was that God is not the author of confusion (v.   33).  Finally, Paul instructed the women to keep silent (v.  34).   They were not to speak in tongues or prophesy in the public assembly of the church. 

First Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 tell us that when the church comes together, women are not to speak in tongues, prophesy, or teach the Word of God.   When the church comes together it is the appointed men who are to do the talking. 

(3) The concession

That women are precluded from speaking authoritatively in the church assembly doesn't mean they can never speak God's truth.  God used women such as Miriam (Ex.   15:20- 21), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-22), and Anna (Luke 2:36-38) to speak for Him on occasion.  Paul dialogued with various churches and synagogues during his missionary journeys, answering questions from women as well as men (cf Acts 17:2-4).  I think there is a time and place as well for women to publicly offer a testimony of praise to the Lord.  I don't think Paul is saying they can never do that.  What he is forbidding is women taking on the leadership roles in the church. 

2.  They are to learn in subjection (1 Cor.  11)

In 1 Corinthians 11:3 Paul says, "The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. " That verse teaches that women are to be in submission to men in the sense that they are not to usurp the role of leadership in the church, which belongs to qualified men only. 

a) The source of subjection

No one argues that the head of every man is Christ.  There is no Christians' Liberation movement demanding equality with Christ! Also, everyone understands that God the Father is the head of Christ.  Philippians 2:5-8 teaches that Christ took upon Himself the form of a servant during His Incarnation.  Since Christ is the head of the man, and the Father is the head of Christ, why do we debate about whether the man is the head of the woman?

b) The symbols of subjection

In Corinth it was customary for women to cover their heads.  That was how a woman displayed her modesty.  It was a sign that she was committed to a man and not available.  Men, on the other hand, had their heads uncovered.  That was a mark of their masculinity.  Somehow in the Corinthian church those cultural signals were getting inverted: women were praying and prophesying with their heads uncovered, thus identifying themselves with the women's liberation movement in Corinth.  The men, perhaps because of a Jewish influence, were covering their heads while praying.  Paul rebukes the men for doing that in verse 4: "Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head. " Does that mean it's a sin to put something on your head when you pray? No, not unless your culture perceives that as something feminine.  In verse 5 he rebukes the women: "Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head, for that is even all one as if she were shaved. " (A shaved head was a symbol of shame in Paul's day. )

Paul was saying we should identify with our society's symbols of masculinity and femininity unless they violate Scripture or God's design for morality.  Such symbols in our society can be readily discerned.  We can tell a woman who looks like a woman from one who looks like she is rebelling against everything that womanhood stands for.   We can look at a man and tell by the way he dresses and carries himself if he is effeminate and denying the symbols of masculinity. 

Does 1 Corinthians 11:5 Permit Women Preachers?

Some people teach that the praying and prophesying the women were doing in 1 Corinthians 11:5 took place during the worship service.  However the text doesn't say that.  Perhaps Paul is talking of prayer and prophecy in general.  It's not until verse 18 that Paul first speaks in this chapter of the formal gathering of the church: "First of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there are divisions among you. " Prior to verse 18 he apparently hasn't been talking about the worship service. 

In verse 5 Paul is perhaps speaking of women praying and sharing the Word of God in a home Bible study or family prayer time.  His point is that whenever Christians get together, women are to maintain the decorum of submission, and men that of headship.   If a woman is veiled when she prays or speaks the Word of God, she attests to her womanhood, and affirms her role of submission to her husband.  She is acknowledging that man is the image and glory of God and she is the glory of man (v.  7).  Man in a sense is the sun and woman is the moon that reflects the light of the sun.  Man is symbolic of the glorious dominion of God, and woman is symbolic of the one who follows. 

c) The significance of subjection

God has designed all of human life to revolve around relationships.  Everyone is involved in a relationship, and within those relationships are differing roles.   However in our society the emphasis is not on relationships, but on individuality.   People focus on their rights and seek to satisfy themselves.  In such a society there's a tendency to view everyone as having equal roles.  But when women refuse to accept their God-ordained roles in the church and family, they undermine the foundational design of God for those institutions.  The stability of society is at stake. 

Some Practical Considerations

1.  When can women proclaim the Word of God?

At any time and at any place, except when the church comes together for the worship service.  Anna spoke the truth (Luke 1:36-38).  Mary spoke it in her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).  Women, I pray to God that you proclaim His truth over and over again for as long as you live!

2.  Can women share what they've learned at Bible studies?

Yes.  In the right environment, under the direction of the leadership of that study, there is nothing wrong with a woman sharing what the Spirit of God has taught her out of the Word. 

3.  Can women pray in public if men are present?

Yes again.  Acts 1:13-14 describes a prayer meeting where the disciples of Jesus as well as several women were present.  There is a time and a place when it is perfectly appropriate for a woman to pray in public. 

When Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:11, "Let the woman learn in silence," he means that women are not to teach during the official meeting of the church.  The responsibility of being the preacher, the teacher, or the one who leads in prayer is a role ordained for men. 

Focusing on the Facts

1.  The city of Ephesus was dominated by __________ culture and religion (see p.   2). 

2.  True or False: Women enjoyed a great amount of personal freedom in Greek society, often taking an active role in the public assemblies (see p.  2). 

3.  What two points does Paul make in 1 Timothy 2:11 about the role of women in the church (see p.  2)?

4.  True or False: Paul's command that women keep silent in church means that a woman is not to speak in church under any circumstances (see p.  2). 

5.  What is the reason women are not permitted to teach in the church (see p.   3)?

6.  Describe the influence the Delphic religion had on the Corinthian church (see pp.  3-4). 

7.  How did Paul instruct the Corinthians to correct the problems in their church (see p.  4)?

8.  Why was it wrong for the Corinthian men to pray with their heads covered (see p.  5)?

9.  Does 1 Corinthians 11:5 teach that women can proclaim God's Word in the church service? Support your answer (see p.  5). 

10.  Why is it such a serious matter for women to reject the roles God has designed for them in the family and the church (see p.  6)?

11.  True or False: It is fine for women to pray when men are present.   Support your answer from Scripture (see p.  6). 

Pondering the Principles

1.  Some women in the Ephesian and Corinthian churches were more concerned with their rights than their responsibilities to God and the church.  What about you? Is your focus on getting or giving? Do you more frequently demand your rights or fulfill your responsibilities? Remember that Jesus came not "to be served, but to serve" (Matt.  20:28, NASB).  If your focus has gradually changed from ministering to the needs of others to looking out for your own rights, you can help get it back where it belongs by memorizing Philippians 2:3-4. 

2.  We've learned in this chapter that both men and women can (under the right circumstances) proclaim God's truth.  Do you regularly look for opportunities to share the truths of Scripture with your friends? your neighbors? your spouse? your children? To share the truths of the Bible we must first learn them ourselves.  That requires constant study.  If you aren't regularly studying Scripture, make a commitment to the Lord to begin tomorrow.


God's High Calling for Women

God's High Calling for Women--Part 4
John MacArthur
All Rights Reserved

(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)

 1 Timothy 2:12-15       Tape GC 54-17



When Paul said farewell to the elders of the Ephesian church in Acts 20, he warned them that false teachers would arise within the church, as well as come in from outside (Acts 20:29-30). Tragically, Paul's fears for the Ephesian church were realized. Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy in part to deal with the false leaders who were plaguing the church at Ephesus.

One of the false teachings concerned the role of women--errant leaders were advocating an unbiblical role for women. In fact, it is possible that some of those leaders themselves were women. Paul makes six points in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in setting forth the biblical role for women in the church.





IV. THE ROLE OF WOMEN (vv. 11-12)

A. In the Old Testament 

B. In the New Testament 

C. In the Church

1. They are to learn in silence 

2. They are to learn in subjection 


3. They are not to teach (v. 12a)

"I permit not a woman to teach."

"Permit" means to allow someone to do what he wants to do. By his choice of words, Paul implies that some women at Ephesus had the desire to lead the church, as some do today. There have always been women who sought leadership roles. In Genesis 3:15- 16 we discover that part of the curse God brought upon man and woman after the Fall was that woman would desire to control man and he would have to rule over her. The conflict of the sexes was one of the results of the Fall. The Hebrew word translated "desire" in Genesis 3:16 is used only one other time in the Pentateuch, in Genesis 4:7. That verse talks about the desire of sin to control Cain. So we can conclude Genesis 3:16 says that women would desire to take control.

That is certainly true in the church. There are women who are not content with their God-given role, but seek a place of prominence by exercising authority over the men. Paul forbids women from taking the authoritative pastor-teacher role in the church, and indeed no woman is ever presented in any such office or role in the entire New Testament.

4. They are not to usurp authority (v. 12b)

"Nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."

a) What that means

"Usurp authority" (Gk., authentein) is a word used only here in the New Testament. A study of that verb by Dr. George Knight in the journal New Testament Studies ("Authente[ma]o in Reference to Women in 1 Timothy 2:12" [1984, vol. 30], pp. 143-57) concluded that the common meaning of authentein in extrabiblical literature is simply "to have authority over." He discovered no negative connotation such as abusing authority.

b) What that does not mean

(1) That women are not to take abusive authority

Some people have reinterpreted authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 to mean "abusive authority." They believe it is all right for a woman to teach and exercise authority over men as long as their authority does not become abusive. However authentein does not mean "abusive authority;" it simply means "authority." There's no justification for the addition to the text. If Paul were talking about abusive authority, he certainly wouldn't limit his warning to women, for the same would apply to men.

Teaching and usurping authority are in contrast to silence and subjection. Women in the church are not to be in any position where men are subordinate to them.

(2) That women are not permitted to pray

The phrase "be in silence" in verse 12 is not intended as a prohibition against women praying under any circumstances. It is teaching that just as women are not to function in the office of teacher or leader in the church, so also they are not to lead in the public prayer times of the church.

(3) That women are never to teach

There is a time and place for women to instruct others. Under some circumstances a woman, along with her husband, could instruct another man. Priscilla and Aquila instructed Apollos (Acts 18:26). However such instruction wouldn't take place in the public worship service of the church.

(4) That women do not have spiritual gifts

Women can have the same spiritual gifts men have, including the gifts of teaching, or leadership. The Lord will give them ample opportunity to use those gifts in a setting that doesn't violate His designed role for them. They can and do use those gifts in situations apart from the worship service of the church. A woman is in no way wronged in being limited to her God-ordained role in the church and not being permitted to usurp the role of a man. There's plenty of opportunity for women to exercise their gifts in a manner consistent with God's design.

(5) That women cannot serve as missionaries

I thank God for the many faithful women who serve on the mission field. However I don't believe women on the mission field have the right to violate the Word of God. Paul himself was a missionary. If there was ever a need for leadership on the mission field, it was in his day. Paul could have compromised by using women in leadership roles, but he didn't. When there is a shortage of men on a mission field, the answer is not to violate biblical principles but to pray for the Lord of the harvest to send forth more workers (Matt. 9:38).

Elisabeth Elliot, after the murder of her husband, Jim, and several other missionaries in Ecuador, was the only missionary left who could speak the language of the Auca Indians. Rather than violate the Word of God, she taught one of the Auca men the sermon each week, and he then preached it to the church.

(6) That women are inferior

That women are not to function as leaders of the church does not imply they are in any way inferior. They simply have a different role. Many people have believed the lie that the only place of power and influence in society is leadership--that it is more fulfilling to lead than to follow. People in humbler roles can actually be very influential. Besides, a leader carries a heavy load of responsibility. Such responsibility is not always desirable (James 3:1).

The role of subordination and subjection often brings the greatest peace, happiness, and contentment. The idea that the greatest experience in life is to be on top of the pile and control everything is an illusion. I advise any woman who seeks to do that to stay where you are under the loving care and protection of your husband and the leaders of the church. It's a much happier place to be; the burden is significantly lighter. Subjection is not a punishment; it is a privilege.

V. THE DESIGN OF WOMEN (vv. 13-14)

A. Established by the Creation (v. 13)

"For Adam was first formed, then Eve."

Woman's subordinate role was ordained in the order of the creation. Adam was created first, then Eve. In 1 Corinthians 11:8- 9 Paul writes, "The man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man." She was made to be his helper (Gen. 2:18). She is to follow his lead, live on his provisions, find safety in his strength, and protection through his courage. The tendency to follow was built into Eve, but with the Fall came conflict.

The subordinate role of women is not a cultural issue. It cannot be explained away as mere bias on Paul's part, because it is based on the order of creation. Adam was first formed, then Eve.

B. Confirmed by the Fall (v. 14)

"Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression."

When we think about the Fall, we usually think of it in connection with Adam. Romans 5:12-21 speaks repeatedly of the one man (Adam) who brought sin and death into the world. Adam bears responsibility for the Fall since he is the head of the human race. But we have to keep in mind that he didn't fall first--Eve did. When Eve got out from under the protection of Adam's leadership and attempted to deal independently with the enemy, she was deceived. That reinforces the truth that women were designed with the need for a leader.

Eve showed by the fact she was deceived that she was unable to lead effectively. She met her match in Satan. The Greek word translated "deceived" (exapata[ma]o) in verse 14 is a very strong term. It is stronger than the common Greek word for "deceived" (apata[ma]o). It refers to being thoroughly deceived. And so we conclude that when a woman leaves the shelter of her protector she has a certain amount of vulnerability.

The Fall was the result not only of disobeying God's command, but also of violating the divinely appointed role of the sexes. Eve acted independently and assumed the role of leadership. Adam violated his role by abdicating his leadership position and following Eve's lead. Nevertheless it is important to note that women are not more defective than men. Just as women need men, so men need women. We're all vulnerable in different ways.

We affirm the leadership of men because it is established by the creation, and confirmed by the Fall. And no daughter of Eve should follow her path and enter into the forbidden territory of rulership that was intended for men.


"Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with sobriety."

In verse 14 we read of woman being in sin. In contrast verse 15 speaks of woman being saved through childbearing. The salvation spoken of here is not salvation from sin. It cannot @refer to Eve since the future tense is used ("she shall be saved"). Furthermore the use of the plural pronoun "they" indicates that more than one woman is in view. Some think this verse refers to Mary's being saved by bearing Christ, but that is foreign to the context. The use of the plural pronoun clearly indicates that all women are in view here.

A. Women's Salvation Defined

The Greek word translated "saved" (s[ma]oz[ma]o) can refer to being saved from things other than sin. This verse is saying that through childbearing all women are delivered from the stigma of a woman's having caused the Fall. A woman led the human race into sin, yet women benefit mankind by replenishing it. They have the opportunity to lead the race to godliness through their influence on children.

B. Women's Significance Delineated

The godliness and virtue of a mother has a profound impact on the life of her children. The raising of children gives woman back her dignity. Her great contribution comes in motherhood. However she must continue in faith, love, and holiness; only a godly mother can raise godly children.
Obviously God doesn't want all women to be mothers. Some of them He doesn't even want to be married, since according to 1 Corinthians 7 some have the gift of singleness. Others He allows to be barren for His own purposes. But as a general rule, motherhood is the greatest contribution a woman can make to the human race. The pain of childbearing was the punishment for her sin, but bearing children delivers her from the stigma of that sin.


Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says women are to accept their God-given role. They must not seek the leadership role in the church, but are to raise godly children. How tragic that so many women feel their lives are unfulfilled because they can't function in the same roles as men. God has given them the unique privilege of raising a godly generation of children, of having an intimate relationship with them that no father can know.

Portrait of a Godly Mother

Susanna Wesley was the wife of a pastor and mother of nineteen children, about half of which survived infancy. Two of her sons were John and Charles Wesley. She's gone down in Christian history as one of the greatest mothers. Here are some of the rules she had in her home (Susanna, Mother of the Wesleys by Rebecca Lamar Harmon [N.Y.: Abingdon, 1968], pp. 57-62):

1. No child was to be given something because he cried for it. If a child wanted to cry but avoid punishment, he was to cry softly. Rarely were loud cries heard in her house.

2. No eating or drinking between meals was permitted except in the case of sickness.

3. Sleeping was regulated. When very small, a child was given a three- hour nap in the morning and again in the afternoon. That was shortened until no sleeping was allowed during the daytime.

4. At 7 P.M. each child was gotten ready for bed. By 8 P.M. she left the room. She never allowed herself or a maid to sit by the bed until the children went to sleep.

5. The younger children had their own table near the main table. When they could handle a knife and fork they were promoted to the family table.

6. Each child was required to eat and drink everything put before him.

7. The children were required to address each other as "sister" and "brother."

8. She never allowed her anger to show when disciplining the children. She would always explain the reason for their punishment to them.

9. She spent one hour each day alone with God in her room, praying for each of her children. Two of her sons helped bring revival to England while France was bathed in a bloody revolution.

Focusing on the Facts

1. What was one of the reasons Paul wrote 1 Timothy (see p. 1)?

2. What was one of the teachings the false leaders were advocating (see p. 1)?

3. The conflict of the sexes was one of the results of __________ __________ (see p. 2).

4. True or False: No woman is ever seen in the role of pastor-teacher in the New Testament (see p. 2).

5. True or False: The Greek word authentein is used frequently in the New Testament to refer to abusive authority (see p. 2).

6. What restrictions are placed on a woman's use of her spiritual gifts (see p. 3)?

7. What should be done on the mission field when there is a shortage of men (see p. 3)?

8. True or False: Women are not to function in leadership roles because they are inferior to men (see p. 3).

9. Subjection is not a __________; it's a __________ (see p. 4).

10. Why can't Paul's teaching on the subordination of women be dismissed as a cultural bias on his part (see p. 4)?

11. In what sense is a woman saved in childbearing (see p. 5)?

12. Why can't 1 Timothy 2:15 refer to Eve or Mary? Whom does it refer to (see p. 5)?

14. True or False: God wants all women to be mothers (see p. 5).

Pondering the Principles

1. There is a disturbing tendency among Christians today to compromise biblical teaching and standards. Under pressure from the feminist movement, some Christians have reinterpreted the Bible's teaching on the role of women. Others have reinterpreted the first few chapters of Genesis in a futile attempt to harmonize the biblical account of creation with the pseudo-science of evolution. Some insist that the Bible alone does not have all the answers to life's problems, but needs to be supplemented with humanistic psychology. The faith "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3, NASB) has too often become like a weather vane--shifting with each passing wind of change. What is the ultimate source of authority in your life? When faced with a conflict between biblical teaching and a contemporary idea, what do you do? Do you reinterpret the Bible, or reject the idea? Are you willing to take a stand for God's Word? Study Psalm 19:7-11 to see how God describes His Word, and determine to uphold it your whole life long.

2. Husbands, how well are you performing your role as your wife's protector? Do you protect her from physical and emotional harm, or do you physically or emotionally abuse her--or let your kids do so? Do you do everything in your power to protect her holiness and purity, or do you allow her to be exposed to compromising situations? Do you lead by being a sacrificial servant, or a despotic dictator? Do you make your wife's submission to you a heavy burden for her to bear? Examine the quality of your love for your wife by comparing it with the way Christ loves the church. You might wish to start by meditating on Ephesians 5:25-29.

Added to the John MacArthur "Study Guide" Collection by:

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
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